Like most of the other entries in this blog, this one is based largely on my opinion. I’m not a professional practicing psychologist and I don’t claim to be a “dog behaviorist”, all I aspire to be is a good dog trainer. I should explain the use of the quotation marks around the phrase “dog behaviorist” above. There are vets that specialize in behavior, and I’m sure they have a board certification of some sort, so this is no attempted knock to their credibility. There are several esteemed institutions of higher learning that have programs in animal behavior, and the zoo keeping, large mammal, and marine mammal crowds have different approaches to “certification”. There also happens to be a contingent of trainers who prefer the word behaviorist and use it to market to customers. Maybe it makes them feel more esteemed, I don’t know. When it comes to dogs and dog trainers there is no certifying authority that officially legitimizes one trainer over another, so buyer beware when you see words like “certified”, “behaviorist”, “accredited”, and my absolute favorite “MASTER TRAINER”.
Anyone can hang a shingle and choose to call themselves a trainer, and many times they become “certified accredited master behaviorist trainers” before they have actually gained the knowledge and experience to allow them to train a dog to sit on lead. I’m not just griping though, the things that make this profession such a mess are the same things that make me want to continue to pursue this career. Dog training is essentially a pure meritocracy. I have met very few sorry dog trainers that enjoy any sort of longevity in the trade. Many will find some short term success through good marketing, but if the skills aren’t there to back it up, they’ll likely move on.
As far as I can tell, most great dog trainers share one thing in common… a real love of training dogs. Of the good trainers I know, almost all started as hobbyist, and most of them burnt up a small fortune pursuing their passion before they ever made a red cent in this industry. It’s not always a fun job; there are lots of bad smells, bad dogs, and bad customers. There are early mornings and late nights, and all dogs are born with the innate ability to splash the contents of their kennel floor directly into the mouths and eyes of trainers. The good trainers I know have all paid their dues in the kennels and most will never stop paying them.
I figure my point is: Do some research on your trainer before hiring them. Don’t be sold by labels and “certifications”. Verifiable proof of time in service as a trainer is worth more than any cert. If they’ve got a strong body of work in this day and age, it’s likely just a google search away.